The Flow of Work in Construction: A Conceptual Discussion

Bo Terje Kalsaas1 & Trond Bolviken2

1Associate Professor, Dr Ing, Faculty of economics and social sciences, Department of working life and innovation, University of Agder, 4846 Grimstad, Norway, Cellular +47 97082582, e-mail: [email protected]
2Director, Business Development and Strategy, Veidekke Entreprenør AS, P.O. Box 506 Skøyen, N-0214 Oslo, [email protected] (Veidekke Entreprenør AS is a Norwegian subsidiary of Veidekke ASA, one of the major Scandinavian construction and real-estate-development companies)


The purpose: To review the term ―flow‖ in production conceptually. The paper is a step towards fulfilling an ambition to find a way of measuring flow (of work) in construction in a manner that does not destroy the intuitive quality of the term, and of measuring flow as directly as possible. Research method: Theoretical and empirical exploration. Research findings: Flow is a construct widely used in different disciplines. It has a strong intuitive appeal in terms of meaning and experience, but it is not easily defined in relation to the operational level of production. The lean construction community seems to take a casual attitude to the concept of flow even though much hinges on it in this area of knowledge. In order to develop a more precise concept of flow in construction, and one that is geared towards measurability, we suggest building on Shingo‘s distinction between process and operation, and that, for example, a clear distinction be made between conditions for flow and the flow as such. Main contribution: The relevance of the paper is that it will help unpack the concept of flow as it applies to the construction industry.


Lean Construction, Production theory, Flow, Measurement



Kalsaas, B. T. & Bolviken, T. 2010. The Flow of Work in Construction: A Conceptual Discussion, 18th Annual Conference of the International Group for Lean Construction , 52-62.

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